Blossom XXXVII: Daffodils, Variations On A Theme

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A daffodil is such a simple flower.  Most bloom yellow or white, or some combination of these colors.  They have six petals, or perianth, and a corona in the middle.  Each grows on a long, slender herbaceous stem alongside long narrow leaves. Yet nature has made thousands of variations from these simplest of elements.

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It is March, and our garden blooms in daffodils.  Newly planted singles emerge from the Earth alongside clumps planted some years ago.

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These simple, charming flowers greet us as we venture out on cool windy days to get on with the springtime chores.  Their toughness and tenacity encourage us as we prepare for the season ahead.

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Through sleet and rain, and springtime snow, daffodils nod cheerfully in the wind.  They shrug off late frosts and spring storms, remaining as placidly beautiful as on a warm and sunny afternoon.

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Narcissus is a delightful genus to collect and celebrate.  From the tiniest miniature to the largest trumpet daffodil, each blooms with beauty and grace.  They come on, one cultivar after another, as the garden beds warm and the other perennials oh so slowly wake from their winter slumber.

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Early, middle, and late season; single or double; white or pink, cream or golden, orange or pure white; I want to grow them all.

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Each autumn our catalog comes.  And I sit down with a fresh mug of coffee and a pen to begin making selections.  I study them all, and note which ones we already grow.  Order more of these…  Try these this year…. Which to order of the new ones?  And where to plant them this time?

One can only choose so many in a season, and the choosing may take a while.

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We are a community of daffodil lovers here, and most neighbors grow at least a little patch somewhere near the street. Some of us collect them, filling our gardens with magical flowers that pop up under the huge old trees, through the duff of leaves, as winter fades into spring.

Roadsides are lined with them, and they even crop up in the wild places near the creeks and in the woods.

Patches of golden daffodil yellow catch our eye on the dullest days, reminders that at some time, someone cared enough to drop their bulbs in the moist soil.

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Our neighbors plant a few more bulbs each year, as do we.  We share this camaraderie and high hope each autumn.

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And when it’s spring again, we celebrate the waves of flowers from first to last.

Beautiful daffodils fill our gardens and remind us that life is sweet.   It takes such little effort to bring such joy

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“She turned to the sunlight
    And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
    “Winter is dead.”
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A.A. Milne

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Woodland Gnome 2018

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Blossom XXXVI: Crocus

Blossom XXXV: In The Forest

 

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Re-Claiming Our Joy

Narcissus ‘Katy Heath’

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“A flower blossoms for its own joy.”
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Oscar Wilde

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The past several months have been an emotional time for many of us.  We are weathering a perfect storm of disturbing thoughts and feelings about our nation’s leadership and our nation’s destiny.   We may worry about the actions of some groups  across our United States.  Our hearts go out to so many individuals who are suffering and who have suffered harm.

It is hard to witness what is happening to our government.  It all feels very, very personal. 

It isn’t necessarily easy, these days, to discern truth from disinformation; reality from ‘spin.’  And it is exhausting to just keep up with each day’s events, let alone try to participate and have an impact on our country’s future.

And I’m weary of it all.   You may be feeling weary as well

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Whatever your politics, you may share an uneasy feeling about how things are happening.  There is too much dishonesty and secrecy on display in the narrative, for our nation’s present  leadership to be working for the general welfare and good of our country. It’s clear they have a different agenda in mind…..

If they were doing good things, they would want us to know.  Secrecy hides actions that you already know are hurting people; that you already know are in violation of our laws.

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We all know, from our own experience, that living with anger, fear, suspicion and dread takes a painful toll on our minds, our bodies and our heart.  We can’t let that happen. 

Feelings like anger, depression and fear drain our positive energy and intent.  We’ve got to somehow ‘fill ourselves back up’ with the  positive energies which come from joy and contentment. 

Before this latest political season began, we each had our own concerns.  And those likely haven’t gone away.   Now we’ve added a huge helping of national angst to our own personal dramas; it is a heavy load to bear.

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“Light chases away darkness.”
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Anasazi Foundation

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But we are strong.  And we have our goals firmly in mind for ourselves, our families, and our communities. 

And we know, with every fiber of our being, that the love, support, and joy we bring to our loved ones makes us all ever stronger.

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“Joy is the holy fire

that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow.”

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Helen Keller

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The key to our survival is keeping our focus on what is positive and life-affirming.

Bask in what brings you joy.  Draw energy from what is most beautiful.

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There is real energy available to us when we focus on beauty.  The Native Americans have a blessing, “Walk in beauty.”  It invites us to celebrate what is good, and authentic, harmonious and pleasing. 

Walking in beauty, making beauty a conscious part of our daily lives, helps us ‘plug up’ the drains on our energy and re-fill the reservoir of our joy. 

Did your parents demonstrate this life skill?  Mine did, and I bless them for this teaching.

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“The universe is energy,

energy that responds to our expectations.”

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James Redfield

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As winter gives way to spring, let’s open our minds and hearts to the changing season.  Let’s know that change is a constant in our lives; and we always have power to affect that change. 

We are not victims.  We are not disenfranchised or alone.  There is always ‘something’ we can do to have a positive impact in our community.

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“Faith, hope and love abide, these three….

and the greatest of these, is love.”

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Paulus

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Let’s re-energize ourselves, re-claim our joy, and re-affirm the goals we are working towards.  Let’s determine to walk in beauty; and more importantly to nurture beauty in our lives. 

Our gardens offer a place to begin.  Once we set foot on that path, there is no telling where it may take us.

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“Look for light
Listen for inspiration on the wind
Let water cleanse your soul
Set yourself on a firm foundation
Serve as the plants
Do not offend your fellow creatures
Live in harmony with all creations”

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Anasazi Foundation

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 Woodland Gnome 2017

 

Fabulous Friday: Daffodils

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Daffodils simply sing happiness as they nod and wave in the early spring breeze.

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Sometimes that breeze is a little more lively, and the nodding and waving make a clear photo next to impossible.  But I still find it satisfying to try and capture their beautiful faces with as much clarity as conditions allow.

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We watch for patches of bright Daffodils as we drive around town.  And we find Daffodils in abundance around Williamsburg.

As much as we enjoy the daffies blooming along the roadsides and in others’ gardens, we agree the very best Daffodil display greets us on our own street.

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Our close neighbors love Daffodils, too, and have thousands blooming in their yards.  A golden sea of daffies welcomes us home.

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Our combined collection grows from year to year.  In autumn, we plant everything from ‘big box store’ mixtures to named hybrids.  Our neighbor lends his bulb planter as we confer about how many we each plan to buy and plant before winter halts our efforts.

I pore over the catalogs in late summer, selecting which new daffies we will plant that year.   Together, my partner and I  plan where to extend the new Daffodil plantings in our garden.

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We see this annual Daffodil planting as an investment in happiness.

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And these are just the opening act!  These early daffies have opened since the second week of February.  Many more will follow…..

Walking through our garden, and admiring the Daffodils together, has made this Friday Fabulous!

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What is more happiness-inducing than to watch the daffies emerge and bloom each spring?   They are a sure herald of better times ahead!

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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I am setting an intention to find some wonderful, beautiful, and happiness inducing thing to write about each Friday. 

Now that the Weekly Photo Challenge has moved to Wednesdays, I am starting  “Fabulous Friday” on Forest Garden. 

If you’re moved to find something Fabulous to share on Fridays as well, please tag your post “Fabulous Friday” and link your post back to mine. 

Happiness is contagious!  Let’s infect one another!

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When Your Garden Looks Like Swiss Cheese- Living with Moles and Voles

Moles have large paddle like feet to tunnel through soil. They prefer to eat invertebrates like insects and insect larvae. Image by Michael David Hill, Wikimedia

Moles and voles go wherever they want to go, and eat whatever they want to eat.   They leave raised tunnels in lawns and garden beds.  Both are small mammals, about 4″-6″ long as adults, and both live underground.  Moles prefer to eat insects, earthworms, and larvae that live in the top few inches of soil.  Voles, which look like mice, are herbivores; preferring to eat roots, grass, seeds, and whatever plant material they can drag down into their tunnels.

These destructive critters love freshly dug soil and newly planted plants; a real problem for many gardeners.  When you plant out a bed of transplants voles think you’ve prepared them a luscious buffet.  We’ve had newly purchased plants simply disappear overnight, eaten before they could even root into the surrounding soil.

As many moles or voles as you trap or kill, there seems to be a constant supply of new ones ready to take over the yard, with new ones born regularly between May and October.  There damage tends to be worse after a good rain when the ground is soft.

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A vole hole under a fern in a shaded area is only one of at least four networked holes all connected with tunnels.

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We’ve noticed that mole and vole activity seems to be worse in shaded areas than sunny, and that they go crazy under any area mulched with bark or leaves.  We’ve had whole areas dug up in a single night, and have even found them tunneling under some lawn during the day.  These guys will just destroy new plants and tear up the ground if left unchecked.  Worse, in our yard, we’ve found snakes also use the vole holes and tunnels for their own purposes.

Some people will bait the tunnels with poison, but I choose not to use poisons, especially since we have neighboring outside cats.  Some people leave traps to catch moles and voles.  But then you have to do something with the creatures once trapped.

Eliminating all moles and voles isn’t going to happen in a forested neighborhood with lots of green space, but, there are some things you can do to slow them down.

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Vole hole, through an earlier patch of gravel, and surrounding tunnels in the lawn.

Vole hole, through an earlier patch of gravel, and surrounding tunnels in the lawn.

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First, we destroy the tunnels and holes whenever and wherever we find them.  We stomp the tunnels flat, and fill the entrance holes with pea gravel.  If you find one hole, there will probably be another nearby.  Before I started filling the holes with pea gravel, we put rocks, bottle caps, moth balls, and other treasures into the tunnels to obstruct them.  Moth balls are especially effective at chasing these critters out of a particular tunnel.

Over the years, we have also stumbled across a non-poisonous way to eliminate some of the ‘activity.’  A friend tipped us off to using chewing gum as a bait.  We use sticks of Double Mint or Juicy Fruit gum, still in its wrapper, and torn into three or four portions per stick.  When we find a hole or tunnel, we simply push one of these little baits into the earth before we stomp the tunnel or fill the hole.  This method has proven helpful in reducing the population.

A product called “Milky Spore,” which is a powdered bacterium, can be sprinkled on lawns.  One application will allow this bacteria to grow in your soil, killing off the larvae of the Japanese beetle.  These larvae are a major food source for moles, and many find that using milky spore reduces the tunneling in their lawn.

Milky spore is not poisonous, won’t harm pets or other wildlife, lasts in the soil for years, and is widely available in hardware stores and garden centers.  As a bonus, it will reduce the Japanese beetle population, which may feed on your roses and other perennials in early summer.

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Gravel and Plant Tone ready to be mixed into the bottom of a  planting hole.

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When planting anything new, I mix pea gravel into the “back-fill” under and around the plant.  The gravel can improve drainage in the soil, and will slow voles down as they try to attract the roots of a plant.  I also mulch around newly planted beds with pea gravel to slow down the squirrels who may want to dig them up.

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Use pea gravel in the "back-fill" soil under and around new plantings, and then mulch around the new plant with pea grave. This discourages moles and voles from eating the roots of your new plant, and discourages squirrels from digging around it. Herbs benefit from the reflected heat and sunlight, and the soil is held in place on a slope.

Use pea gravel in the “back-fill” soil under and around new plantings, and then mulch around the new plant with pea grave. This discourages moles and voles from eating the roots of your new plant, and discourages squirrels from digging around it.  Herbs benefit from the reflected heat and sunlight, and the soil is held in place on a slope.

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You might also create a ‘living fence’ of poisonous roots around an area that you need to protect from hungry voles.  You will find that there are many plants with poisonous or irritating compounds in their roots, stems and leaves.  My favorite plants to use this way are Narcissus and Hellebores.  Plant these plants around shrubs whose roots you want to protect, in mixed borders, and as a barrier around areas of lawn.

Narcissus, planted a bulbs in the fall, are an fairly inexpensive investment and multiply over the years.  They grow all winter long and bloom in the spring.  Although their leaves die back in early summer, their roots and bulbs continue to work as a barrier year round.

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Narcissus are beautiful but poisonous. Their bulbs and roots can form a ‘living fence’ to protect other plants form hungry voles.

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Hellebores, an evergreen herbaceous perennial, are available in garden centers from late autumn through the spring.  They bloom from late December through early May, and serve as a ground cover through the summer months.  They have large, fibrous root systems.

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Hellebores bloom through the winter months, but their large root system can protect an area from voles year round.

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Once established, Hellebores produce lots of seedlings, which you can transplant to new areas you want to protect.  Most gardeners cut back the old Helleborus leaves in the spring to make way for new growth.  Consider using old, ragged Hellebores leaves you’ve trimmed back as a mulch around other plants you want to protect.  As the leaves decay, their poisonous compounds enter the soil.

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A new raised bed, bordered by recycled bricks, is filled with topsoil and compost, ready for planting.

A new raised bed, bordered by recycled bricks, is filled with topsoil and compost, ready for planting.

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The best plan to protect your garden from mole and vole damage is to grow in raised beds.  When you build the bed, put a layer of chicken wire or landscaping fabric on the ground; follow with a shallow layer of gravel, then newspaper, cardboard, or brown paper shopping bags.  This suppresses the grown of any grass or weeds up into your new bed.  It will break down quickly, and help retain moisture under the roots as it enriches the soil.   Build the walls of your bed from wood, rock or masonry as tall as you need them, and fill the bed with topsoil and compost.

Laying landscape fabric or chicken wire under a new raised bed will keep the voles from eating the roots of your plants.  You might also use the Hugelkulture method of building a new bed on top of sticks, branches, leaves, or chipped wood.  This woody barrier will also help stop tunneling moles or voles.

You may need to slice through the bed’s lining to plant shrubs or other deeply rooted perennials, but your plants will be protected.  Many plants will grow more vigorously in a raised bed, especially if your soil is compacted or depleted.  It is very easy to plant into the fresh soil.

This is also an easy bed to maintain, and will never need tilling.  Simply add a few inches of compost each spring, and move plants in and out as the season dictates.

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March raised bed

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Plants grown in raised beds and containers grow much better than plants put directly into the soil around our home.  We get larger, lusher plants, with more flowers and fruits; probably because their roots can find plenty of moisture, air and nutrition and aren’t attacked by hungry voles!

The steep grade of our yard makes traditional double digging or tilling not only impractical, but dangerous.  Building up above the present soil makes more sense, gives a better result, and allows us to put down layers of material to stop the moles and voles from digging up to get the roots of our plants.

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Our new butterfly garden in May.

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If you have been frustrated in your efforts to garden or even maintain a lawn by hungry moles and voles, take heart.  There are things you can do to reduce or eliminate the damage they cause, without resorting to poisons.  Once you understand them, you can find ways to reduce their access to the food they seek, and protect both your landscaping investment and your peace of mind.

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Daffodil bulbs planted at a depth of 8″, and about 6″ apart all around the root ball to protect it from voles.

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Woodland Gnome 2013
Updated 2018

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